Barley shortage may push beer prices up, brewers warn

03 August, 2007

Brewers have warned that the price of beer is likely to rise this year due to extreme weather across the globe destroying barley crops.

In its latest shop price index report, the British Retail Consortium said there were likely to be supply issues for wheat and barley this autumn because of floods in the UK and poor harvests in America, Australia and Eastern Europe.

UK brewers are remaining optimistic about crops surviving here as weather conditions change, but are predicting price hikes if shortages do arise.

Rupert Thompson, managing director of Wychwood Brewery said: “It’s too early to say how crops are going to be in the UK, we need to wait a couple of months, but some prices that have been quoted already in the market are very high.

“Our observation at the moment is it’s likely that prices are going to go up, but how much by I don’t know. If it went up like it did last year we will have no option but to put our prices up. Retailers will pressure us and say we can’t, but we’ll have no choice. We’ll be caught between a rock and a hard place.”

Alistair Hook, founder of the Meantime brewery in Greenwich, said he was keeping his fingers crossed for a continuation of good weather, but said prices could shoot up if harvests were low.

He said: “For the smaller brewers who use high-end quality malt, it will have an effect. If the price of malt goes up inevitably the prices of beer will have to go up.”

However, Kent brewer Shepherd Neame’s production and distribution director Ian Dixon said he was in regular contact with maltsters who were “optimistic” about the supply.

“Although we’ll have to wait until the crop is harvested, we’re encouraged by the recent improvement in the weather which will help ripen the barley,” he said.

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